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April 1, 2010
A cable very recently introduced by Berk-Tek, a Nexans company (www.berktek.com) exemplifies the idea that as local area networks (LANs) and their cabling systems have gotten increasingly complex ...

Compiled by Patrick McLaughlin

10-Gig limited distance cable

A cable very recently introduced by Berk-Tek, a Nexans company (www.berktek.com) exemplifies the idea that as local area networks (LANs) and their cabling systems have gotten increasingly complex, one size does not fit all. Called 10G LD, the new unshielded twisted-pair cable is not exactly a Category 6A cable, but it can support 10GBase-T up to a maximum distance of 60 meters. And it meets all requirements for Category 6A component compliance, as set forth in TIA-568-C.2, at distances up to 60 meters. Furthermore, Berk-Tek states, the cable meets all IEEE 802.3an channel performance requirements when it is terminated with Category 6A connectivity: Four connectors to 60 meters and two connectors down to a seven-meter channel.

The “LD” in the cables name stands for “limited distance” because of that 60-meter maximum, and Berk-Tek is emphasizing the cable’s diameter—0.265 inches. That is 15% smaller than Berk-Tek’s LANmark-10G2, which is a full-blown, 100-meter Category 6A cable.

“We are finding that many 10GBase-T implementations do not require full 100-meter channels,” said Todd Harpel, Berk-Tek’s director of marketing. “This cable provides an extremely small cross-sectional area to optimize pathway fill in high-density installations like data centers and high-performance computing operations.”

Here is a cable that by strict definition, is not a Category 6A product. Berk-Tek didn’t say this outright, but presumably the cable would not be component-compliant to each and every Category 6A performance specification. The manufacturer, however, is holding it up as an option for deployment in 10GBase-T systems that do not exceed 60 meters.

For many years a rule of thumb has been that Category 5 cable is a hand-in-glove fit for 100Base-TX and Category 5e was made for 1000Base-T; each medium could support the respective application to 100 meters. Today, with 10GBase-T’s complexities, its anticipated heavy deployment in data centers with shorter cabling runs, and a mixture of Category 6 and Category 6A media out there to support it, the rule of thumb no longer applies. Expect more products like the 10G LD to emerge—those that are more concerned with supporting a specific application than with meeting all the specifications of a component standard.

Fiber U reunion

Newcomers as well as veterans of the fiber-optic installation trade once again have a free online resource that can either get them up to speed or refresh their knowledge of fiber optics. The famous Fiber University (www.fiberu.org) online fiber-optic training courses have returned as part of the free educational programs offered by The Fiber Optic Association (www.thefoa.org).

The initial offering in this new version of Fiber U is the self-study program entitled “The Basics of Fiber Optics,” which provides basic information for novices who want to learn about fiber optics as well as refresher material for experienced fiber professionals. The program leverages the technical materials found in The FOA Online Fiber Optic Reference Guide as well as The FOA Reference Guide To Fiber Optics.

“We have created a lesson plan that leads you through 10 lessons from the basics of fiber optics to installation practices,” the FOA said when announcing Fiber U’s return. “Each lesson gives you reading assignments and then tests your comprehension. You can take the course online or using the textbook. Both are referenced in the lesson plans.”

Fiber U also contains 11 virtual hands-on tutorials that demonstrate the proper method of carrying out common processes in fiber optics such as cable preparation, splicing, and termination.

Fiber U had a long history as a fiber-optic training conference and online training resource that educated many fiber-optic technicians who got their start in the 1990s. The FOA said it will continue to develop Fiber U as a collection of free online learning opportunities. Available currently are links to online self-study programs for those who want to learn about fiber optics. The FOA said it will add more self-study programs, video, and online webinar lectures as well as other educational resources in the future.

New leadership in TIA TR-42

In February the Telecommunications Industry Association’s (TIA; www.tiaonline.org) TR-42 Engineering Committee elected a chair and vice-chair of the overall committee, and also filled those positions for several of its subcommittees.

Bob Jensen of Fluke Networks has been elected TR-42’s chair and Valerie Maguire of Siemon has been chosen vice-chair. Subcommittee leadership positions were also filled, as follows.

TR-42.2 (Residential) Chair: Ray Emplitt, Legrand Wiremold; Vice-Chair: Bob Jensen, Fluke Networks

TR-42.4 (Customer-Owned Outside Plant) Chair: Julie Roy, C2 Consulting; Vice-Chair: Jamie Silva, Corning

TR-42.6 (Administration) Chair: Steve Huffaker, JPMorgan Chase and Company; Vice-Chair: Jonathan Jew, J&M Consulting

TR-42.12 (Optical Fibers and Cables) Chair: Mike Kinard, OFS; Vice-Chair: Brett Lane, Panduit Corporation

TR-42.13 (Passive Optical Devices and Components) Chair: David Fisher, Tyco Electronics; Vice-Chair: Helmet Kner, Telcordia Technologies

TR-42.16 (Bonding and Grounding) Chair: Mark Harger, Harger Inc.; Vice-Chair: Richard Jones, Richard Jones Consulting

Also at its February meeting, the TR-42 committee approved the merger of subcommittee 42.8 Optical Fiber Cabling Systems into the 42.11 Optical Systems subcommittee, which is chaired by CommScope’s Paul Kolesar.

FOLS elects 2010 directors

The TIA’s Fiber Optics LAN Section (www.fols.org), an entirely separate group from TR-42, also recently held elections from which it named its 2010 officers. FOLS serves as an educational resource, providing information to users about the benefits of fiber in customer-owned networks.

Rodney Casteel, manager of advanced technology solutions with CommScope, was elected FOLS chair for a third consecutive term. Section Vice-Chair is Alfred Flores of Berk-Tek; Sharon Bois of Corning Optical Fiber will be Communication Chair for 2010. Robert Reid of Panduit is FOLS’ Membership Chair this year, and Tyco Electronics’ Herb Congdon is the group’s Standards Chair. (As an aside, Congdon just completed a term chairing TIA TR-42; for some, the volunteer efforts do not cease.)

“There is continuous need and interest in the programs that we offer and the educational materials that our organization produces,” Casteel said. “Since FOLS comprises a consortium of companies, we are able to provide vendor-neutral, technology-based answers to common questions and concerns and are able to help users better understand the types of applications where fiber-based solutions are the right choice.”

WiFi tester promises quick troubleshooting

Fluke Networks (www.flukenetworks.com) recently announced the AirCheck WiFi Tester, a handheld test tool that will be available this quarter. According to Fluke Networks, the tester will provide quick troubleshooting for 802.11 a/b/g/n wireless LANs, allowing users to verify and troubleshoot network availability, connectivity, channel utilization, and security settings.

Users will be able to identify coverage and connectivity problems, the manufacturer says, as well as find unauthorized access points, see overloaded networks and channels, detect interference, and validate security settings. When announcing the product, Fluke Networks emphasized its ease-of-use, stating that just about any network professional, regardless of their level of WiFi knowledge, could diagnose and solve many common problems using AirCheck.

The tester lists for $1,995.

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